My father's name was the name
of an archangel: but not the one
whose figure was plastered on every
clear bottle of Ginebra San Miguel,
lance raised over the cowering
figure of Satan, backlit wings
resplendent in gold and orange.
Ling, his friends called him; short
for Iling, Gabrielito, Gabrieling—
all the ways in which the sound
of the diminutive could tinkle
like the last ice cube in a glass
before melting. It was a time
when people swore allegiances
that they might revoke in private;
when unconfiscated copies of a new
biography of the dictator's wife
were passed around in secret.
He hid the paperback in a sock
drawer and took it out to read
at night. My mother and I
could read it too, only if we
promised to put it back. The author
described how the dictator's wife
and her mother lived in the garage
of her father's house: genteel
poverty, the old-fashioned value
of saving face. In school, where
every now and then I heard
whispers that I'd been adopted,
I learned the angel who shared
my father's name was the one
who appeared to the Virgin
Mary. She shouldn't be alarmed
that she'd stopped menstruating,
as she was carrying God's child.
Did the angel himself, in person or
as my father, bring the unexpected
news of my arrival as well?
Poet Luisa A. Igloria (Poetry Foundation web page, author webpage ) is Co-Winner of the 2019 Crab Orchard Open Competition in Poetry for her manuscript Maps for Migrants and Ghosts, forthcoming from Southern Illinois University Press in fall 2020. She is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. She is the author of What is Left of Wings, I Ask (2018 Center for the Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Prize, selected by former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey); Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015), Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (Utah State University Press, 2014 May Swenson Prize), Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), and nine other books. She is a member of the core faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University which she directed from 2009-2015. In 2018, she was the inaugural Glasgow Distinguished Writer in Residence at Washington and Lee University. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she cooks with her family, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.